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Best albums/CDs of the year
Best albums/CDs of the year
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

2008 was an excellent year for music, which made choosing the top albums a more difficult task than I initially expected. But after listening and re-listening to stacks of CDs, these are my picks for the very best of the past 12 months in order of selection.

1) Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Never before has a Seattle act captured the top spot in our publication's year-end album list, despite this being a city known for its rich music history. But 2008 introduced us to local folk-roots group Fleet Foxes, who transported listeners to mountaintops, river valleys, pine tree forests and lakefront campfires with its unique organic songs. Not only are "Your Protector," "White Winter Hymnal," "Oliver James" and "Heard Them Stirring" perfect for a summer grill, but each is a delicately arranged jewel that will sound fresh 20 years from now.

2) The Odd Couple - Gnarls Barkley
Using a title better suited for their first recording, Gnarls Barkley's sophomore disc was excitingly strange, delightful and never lacking originality. An artistic union of in-demand producer Danger Mouse and noted R&B singer Cee-Lo, this alternative duo earned genius status with a set of standout entries, such as the dreamy "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" and the groovy, Grammy-nodded "Going On."

3) Gossip in the Grain - Ray LaMontagne
New Hampshire-born Ray LaMontagne isn't your usual whispery, bleeding heart singer-songwriter, though he is truly one of the gifted at the moment. Offering something along the lines of acoustic blues-Americana, the former shoe factory worker showcased his adventurous side on songs like "Meg White" and "You Are the Best Thing," and the result was pure magic.

4) In Rainbows - Radiohead
Released digitally to fans in 2007, though hitting record stores on New Year's Day, In Rainbows was the newest addition to the trophy case of rock classics by England's prized foursome Radiohead. It was a less complicated and experimental project than Kid A or OK Computer, and with awesome tracks like "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" and "Reckoner," this band is clearly on a planet all their own.

5) Robyn - Robyn
Swedish pop star Robyn went from bubblegum to ear candy with the release of her self-titled and Grammy-nominated album, a set of funky dance numbers that explored a variety of beats, raps and street lingo - even Madonna was impressed, extending opening gigs on her latest tour. "Cobrastyle" is a spectacular club hit, while "Konichiwa Bitches" is badass, but "With Every Heartbeat" is the icing on the cake.

6) Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends - Coldplay
Collectively, this is Coldplay's finest work and a return to deep, melancholy fare since their lukewarm-acclaimed previous effort, the Top 40-laced X & Y. From the illuminating "Life in Technicolor" to the handclap-led "Lost!" to the stunning "Lovers in Japan," it's an album that retains the quartet's dramatic sound yet leaps for joy every now and then.

7) Oracular Spectacular - MGMT
The feel good album of the year, in other words the slacker-stoner album of the year, belongs to New York duo MGMT, hand-picked by Radiohead and Beck to open shows for them in the past year. Young, sexy and testosterone-equipped, the pair turned hallucinatory pop tunes into irresistibly workouts like "Electric Feel," "Kids" and 2008's best overall single, "Time to Pretend."

8) Narrow Stairs - Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie soared to new commercial and artistic highs on this year's marvelous Narrow Stairs, which featured a leadoff single, "I Will Possess Your Heart," that was over six minutes in length and almost half instrumental. The success of 2005's Plans made it easy for the Emerald City foursome to sell out to mainstream, but with songs like "Long Division" and "Cath," they chose a more credible course.

9) Santogold - Santogold
Philly-bred Santogold heated up the dance floors in '08 with a collection of vibrant, electro-lite numbers on her self-titled debut. A pinch of Siouxie Sioux, a dash of Cyndi Lauper and a spoonful of Gwen Stefani sort of describes what she's about, though you'll have to listen to "Say Aha," "Lights Out," and "L.E.S. Artistes" to arrive at your own opinion.

10) LP3 - Ratatat
Electronic wizards Ratatat, who've toured alongside Bjork, Daft Punk, Franz Ferdinand and The Killers, raised the bar in 2008 on their third offering that produced two mega club tracks, "Shempi" and "Mirando." In a year that saw an abundance of party records, it was this duo's work that stood out from the pack.

15-25) In random order: Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords, Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles, Tha Carter III - Lil Wayne, Midnight Organ Fight - Frightened Rabbit, Modern Guilt - Beck, Lay It Down - Al Green, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) - Erykah Badu, Me and Armini - Emiliana Torrini, Day & Age - The Killers, Donkey - CSS, Sleepless Nights - Patty Loveless, This Gift - Sons and Daughters, Unfamiliar Faces - Matt Costa, Simple Times - Joshua Radin, Flying Upside Down - Griffin House

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